First train into Walhalla, crossing the No. 6 bridge, approaches the town
March 13th, 2002, Walhalla, Vic. - More than 57 years after the closure of the line, and as a result of ten years of effort by a dedicated group of hard-working volunteers, including an estimated outlay of over 200,000 hours of voluntary labour and more than $4 million invested in rolling stock and infrastructure, the Walhalla Goldfield Railway finally returned to the town on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 13th, 2002.
Services to the public were scheduled to resume from the following Friday.
Return of the first train into Walhalla since 1945
To celebrate the return of the railway, a wide range of activities were planned for the weekend of 15th - 17th March, including heritage walks and special openings of the Walhalla Post Office, Mechanics Institute and Free Library, Masonic Centre and Long Tunnel Extended Mine. Fine weather for the weekend and a blaze of advance publicity in the region ensured that all events were well attended, including performances by the Traralgon Brass Band in the historic Walhalla Mountaineer Brass Band Rotunda.
The large crowd that gathered at the Walhalla Railway Station at 3 pm included Commonwealth, State and Local Government representatives as well as many residents and visitors. Gathered in the historic railyard, they heard the State Premier, Mr Steve Bracks, congratulate the railway volunteers and many other contributors on their outstanding achievement, and once again officially declare the railway open.
The privilege of making the surprise announcement of the day, however, was reserved for the former head of the federal National Party, Mr Tim Fisher, a self-confessed railway buff, who outlined the Walhalla Goldfield Railway's new "stretch" objective as being restoration of the line into the township of Erica by the year 2010, in many ways a far more arduous, challenging and picturesque passage even than the one just completed (but at least it's downhill most of the way ....).
Dion Schembri, Heritage League member and Walhalla
The Walhalla Heritage and Development League published a special commemorative edition of the "Walhalla Chronicle, Moondarra, Toombon and Woods Point Times" to celebrate the return of the train, containing, among other things, a number of excerpts from a variety of publications relating to the original railway service.
Part of the large crowd at the opening ceremony.
In its heyday, the railway's path into Walhalla was renowned as one of the most picturesque and spectacular routes in Australia, snaking its way up a narrow and rugged valley from the junction of Stringer's Creek with the Thomson River some four kilometers to the south, into the town. Its supporters are confident that its reputation will soon be restored as visitors opt for this more leisurely route into the township.
The arrival of the train should also serve to reduce the substantial demands that cars are beginning to make on the town's precious real estate.
The inaugural train on its way up picturesque Stringer's Creek gorge.
The Heritage and Development League welcomes the return of the railway, and would like to extend its thanks to the many volunteers and other contributors who helped to bring it about. We have installed seats and a trail of heritage signs along the road all the way from the station through to the top end of the town to encourage visitors to take their time and take a stroll through our historic township.
For more information about the Heritage and Development League, contact us at:
Walhalla Heritage and Development League Inc
c/- Post Office, Walhalla, Victoria 3825
Tel: 5165 6256